Book 7. The Energy of Life (2003)
A bride for an English lord
One day at a small local market in the city of Vladimir I happened to witness an incident between a young salesgirl and an inebriated male customer.
The girl was selling cigarettes. She was evidently new on the job and hadn’t yet boned up very well on her merchandise. She was getting the brand-names of the cigarettes mixed up and took a long time to wait on each customer. A small queue had formed — about three people. The last person in line, a drunken male, shouted out to the salesgirl:
“Hey, can’t you move a little faster, birdbrain!”
The girl’s cheeks blushed bright red. Several passers-by stopped to stare at the hapless girl.
The drunk continued shouting out his unflattering remarks. He wanted to buy two packs of Primas, but when his turn came, the girl refused to serve him. Flushed with embarrassment and clearly having a hard time holding back her tears, she declared to the customer:
“You are being insulting, and I refuse to serve you.”
At first the man was dumbfounded at this unexpected turn of events. Then he faced the growing crowd of gawkers and launched into an even more insulting tirade:
“Will you just look at this stupid jackass?! If you got yourself a husband, he’d complain in no uncertain terms if you hobbled about the kitchen like a lame hen!”
“I wouldn’t let even my husband insult me like that,” the girl replied.
“Who d’you think you are, anyway? Nothing but a stubborn
jackass!” the inebriated man went on, shouting even louder and more irritatingly; “She won’t let her husband — Maybe you’re planning on marrying some English lord?”
“Maybe a lord, that’s my business,” replied the girl tersely and turned away
The situation was heating up. Neither side was willing to give in. A sizeable crowd of market regulars had gathered to watch things unfold. Onlookers began scoffing at the young salesgirl’s declared intention to marry an English lord.
Another girl came over from the next stall and stood beside her friend. She just stood there, without saying a word.
They stood there silently, two young girls who looked to be just out of high school. The crowd that had gathered were now talking amongst themselves about the girls’ insolent and haughty behaviour.
Most of the snide remarks were about the girl’s pie-in-the- sky hopes of marrying a lord, along with her over-estimation of her attributes and opportunities.
The dilemma was solved by a young man, the owner of the market stalls. When he first approached, he demanded in rather severe tones that the girl sell the cigarettes to the customer. However, after hearing her refusal, he quickly hit upon a solution satisfactory to all. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a fifty-rouble note and addressed the girl:
“Madam, if you would be so kind, and if it is not too much trouble, please sell me two packages ofPrimas.”
“Of course,” responded the girl, handing him the cigarettes.
The young man in turn passed the cigarettes to the male customer. The conflict was over and the crowd dispersed. This story has a sequel — a quite unexpected one at that.
Each time I went by the market thereafter, I couldn’t help paying attention to these two young salesgirls. They worked just as deftly as their senior fellow-workers, but at the same
time significantly distinguished themselves from them. They were slender of figure, modestly but neatly dressed, makeup not overdone, and their movements were far more elegant than the others’. The girls continued working at the market for almost a year and then both disappeared at the same time.
It was about six months later, in the summertime, at the same market, that I noticed an elegant young woman walking beside the fruit stalls. She stood out from the crowd by her proud bearing and fashionable expensive attire. This striking young woman was accompanied by a dapper-looking gentleman carrying a basket filled with a variety of appetising fruits.
It dawned on me that this young woman who was attracting all sorts of attention from the men around — as well as (no doubt) jealous glances from the women — was none other than the friend of the cigarette salesgirl.
I went over and explained to the young couple — especially to the lady’s concerned companion — the reason for my curiosity Finally the woman recognised me. We sat down at a table in an open-air cafe and Natasha (as she was called) recounted to me the events that had taken place over the past year and a half. Her story went as follows:
The day when Katya had that incident with the customer in front of all the regulars we decided to quit our jobs so people wouldn’t laugh at us. You remember how Katya said back then that she was going to marry an English lord. And people laughed at her. We realised they would go on laughing and pointing fingers at us.
But we didn’t manage to find work anywhere else. You see, we’d just finished high school, and didn’t make it when we applied to college. Well, all right, I got average marks, but Katya was a real brain. She passed her exams with flying
colours, but still didn’t get in. They’d cut back on the number of free college places, and she didn’t have the money to pay for her education — her mum makes a pittance, and there’s no dad. So we ended up taking sales jobs at the market, since they wouldn’t hire us anywhere else.
We began working and swotting to sit the next year’s college exams. But a week after the incident at the market Katya all of a sudden turns to me and says:
“I’ve got to prepare myself to be worthy of being the wife of an English lord. D’you want to train along with me?”
I thought she was joking, but she was dead serious. Even back at school Katya had always been pretty obsessive about whatever she put her mind to.
She went to the library and found the syllabus of a seminary for young ladies, which she adapted to modern times. And we started training like crazy according to Katya’s syllabus.
We did dancing and aerobics, we studied English and English history, along with the rules of etiquette and good manners. We watched political discussions on TV so we could hold conversation with intelligent people. Even while we were at work in our stall we tried to behave as though we were at a high-society gathering, so that our manners would acquire a natural feel.
We earned money, but didn’t spend it on ourselves. We didn’t even buy makeup, so we could save. We were saving so we could have fancy outfits custom made, as well as for a trip to England.
Katya said, you see, that English lords would never come round a small market like this in Vladimir, which meant we had to go to England. Our chances would be far greater there.
So we went to England with a tourist group. The two weeks there simply flew by. Of course, you understand, there were no English lords to greet us or take us around. And I really had no expectations for myself — I was just doing this to keep Katya company But she actually had hopes. Once she gets something into her head, that’s it. She never stopped looking every Englishman in the face, searching for her intended. We even went to a dance club a couple of times, but nobody asked us to dance, not even once.
It was the day of our departure, and we were on our way out to the motor coach from our hotel, and Katya still kept looking around, ever hopeful. We stopped right on the hotel steps, when Katya suddenly puts her bag down, looks off to one side and says:
“Here he comes!”
I look, and lo and behold, walking along the sidewalk toward us is a young man, minding his own business and paying no attention to us. Just as I expected, he came right up to where we were standing, but didn’t even glance at Katya and walked right by
And then all of a sudden Katya — coo, blow me away! — calls out to him.
The young man turns to look at us. Katya goes up to him slowly but confidently and says to him in English:
“My name is Katya. I am from Russia. Now I am leaving to go to airport on a bus with my tour-group. I have approached you... I have feeling that I can make you a very good wife. I do not yet love you, but I shall be able to love you, and you will love me. We shall have good children together. A little boy and a little girl. We shall be happy together. And now, if you wish, you can accompany me to say good-bye at airport.”
The young man just stood there staring intently at Katya without saying a word. He was dumbfounded, no doubt from the shock. Then he said he had an important business meeting, wished her bon voyage and walked off.
The whole way to the airport Katya sat staring out the window We didn’t say a word to each other. Both Katya and I felt awkward in front of all the tourists who saw the scene in front of the hotel. I could literally feel my skin tingling at all those people making fun of Katya and accusing her.
But when we arrived at the airport and were getting off the coach, right there was none other than this same young Englishman, greeting Katya with a huge bouquet of flowers in his hand.
She put her bag down — no, she simply let it fall to the pavement. She didn’t take the bouquet, but buried her head in his chest and began crying.
He dropped the bouquet, and the flowers scattered all over. I helped the other tourists gather them up, while they just stood there. And the Englishman was stroking Katya’s head. And as though there were nobody else around, he kept telling her what a fool he was for almost letting fate slip through his fingers, how if he didn’t catch up with her he would suffer for it his whole life, and kept on thanking Katya for finding him.
Meanwhile, as it turned out, the plane’s departure was delayed. I shan’t tell you how, but I was the one who managed to delay it.
Her Englishman turned out to be from a family of British diplomats and he himself was about to be posted to some embassy.
As soon as we got back to Russia, he started ringing up Katya every day They’d talk for hours. Katya’s now in England, and pregnant. I think they really do love each other. And now I believe in love at first sight.
When Natasha finished telling me her amazing story, she gave a smile to her companion sitting beside her. I asked whether they had known each other long. And the young man answered:
“You see, I was in the same tourist group. When the Englishman’s flowers got strewn all over, Natasha started picking them up, and I began helping her. Now I carry her fruit basket for her. Who are we, compared to English lords?!” Natasha lovingly placed her hand on her companion’s shoulder and said with a smile:
‘And just who are they compared to you — our Russian men?!”
Then the happy girl turned to me and said:
‘Andrei and I got married a month ago. And here we are, come to see my parents.”
After hearing the story of these girls, a lot of people might think: well, they were just lucky. Not a typical situation. But if I dare say it, the situation in this case was absolutely typical and entirely normal. More than that, I would affirm that other girls could predict a similar destiny for themselves if they are prepared to follow the pattern set by Katya and Natasha. Of course there may be certain differences — names, the type of suitor, and the time-frame involved — but a similar situation happening with others is already a predetermined fact. Predetermined by whom? By the girls themselves, their way of thinking and the consistent steps they take toward their goal.
Think about it. Katya had a dream, or a goal: to marry an Englishman. What prompted this dream is unimportant. She was probably turned off by the atmosphere of the market, the drunken customers and how rude they were, or maybe the shameful taunts of the customer in question.
In any case, a dream was born. What of it? What young girl doesn’t dream of a prince driving a white Mercedes, and yet still ends up marrying a typical loser? In the vast majority of cases their dreams do not come true.
I concede that, of course, but the reason they don’t come true is simply that their actions, or more precisely, their faction in respect to their dream is like the anecdote about the lottery ticket — when someone dreams about winning big at the lottery and even asks God for help, but doesn’t take the first elementary step of buying a single ticket.
The girls began taking action, and a consistent pattern was realised: dream — thought — action. Try removing just one of these elements from the chain, and the girls’ fate would have turned out completely differently